One of the challenges I hear most frequently from parents is “how can I get my child to eat more vegetables?” Unquestionably, vegetables are the least-liked food group among kids.
Some vegetables, like carrots, cucumber, bell pepper, corn, peas and potatoes, tend to be easier sells to kids. But what about the super nutrient-dense veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, kale and Brussels sprouts? These require a more adventurous palate and A LOT more parental effort.
Fortunately, there is oodles of research on strategies that can help. Here are a few of the strategies to try.
A Pea-Sized Amount
I often equate giving your child even just a few pieces of an un-liked vegetable to what it must feel like to be on an episode of The Fear Factor (except with no financial reward). It’s just too much and it’s scary. Instead, start by giving them just a pea-sized amount. At this point, the goal is to just get them to willingly taste it.
The amount you give, as well as the size of the pieces can impact the likelihood that your child will eat it. My son likes broccoli, but only when it’s in small pieces, while my daughter prefers it in big pieces. Go figure. Experiment with different sizes and shapes to see if one is more appealing than another.
Consider how you prepare the vegetable. Often times, kids prefer raw, crunchier vegetables versus ones that have been cooked to a mush (assuming chewing isn’t an issue). Here’s a great “taste test” you can do, by Fields of Flavor, that can help you identify texture and size preferences.
This is a fancy term for offering a new/un-liked flavor with a familiar/liked flavor. For example, serve cauliflower with a favorite dip or cream cheese. The idea is that, with time, your child will eventually like the cauliflower whether or not it’s served with dip.
Kids love playing with their food, so use it to your advantage. Chop up some veggies and put them in small bowls. Then let your child assemble their own meal. Think make-your-own pizza or tacos. The key is to not pressure them. Simple make a variety of veggies available and let your child choose what to use.
What techniques have worked best for you and your family?